Officer Richard Ramirez, center, of the Bluffton Police Department was awarded the J.P. Strom Award and the Physical Fitness Award and named the top officer in the recent graduating class of the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. With Ramirez are Bluffton Police Chief Joe Babkiewicz, left, and Lewis “Jackie” Swindler, director of the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy. COURTESY S.C. CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACADEMY

The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy awarded Bluffton Police Officer Richard Ramirez two top honors during the graduation ceremony March 31 for the most recent law enforcement training class. 

Ramirez received the J.P. Strom Award as the top student in his graduating class, as well as the Physical Fitness Award for scoring highest for all physical fitness categories. 

The J.P. Strom Award is the Academy’s most prestigious award and is bestowed on the student who obtains the highest overall academic average in each class.

The award memorializes Joseph Preston “Pete” Strom. He was the eighth chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), serving from 1956 until his death in 1987. Strom led the movement to raise professional law enforcement standards within the state.

“This is a proud moment for Officer Ramirez and for the Bluffton Police Department,” said Police Chief Joe Babkiewicz. “Ramirez represents the caliber of officer the department wants to attract, and we are beyond proud of him for his dedication to the academy process and to the profession.”

Ramirez joined BPD in September 2022. 

A graduate of Bluffton High School, Ramirez served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2012 to 2022.

This is the second time a Bluffton police officer received top Academy honors. Officer Frank Ginn, Jr. was awarded the J.P. Strom Award June 26, 2020. 

The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy is an eight-week program. It consists of classroom, field training, firearms, and physical ability instruction required to become a law enforcement officer in the state of South Carolina.